Why join PLU? Why do house swaps? Especially for the happiness of our children, it is my (too long) point of view ...
Last summer, we had our 60th family exchange. We are fans of this holiday formula.
In my view, it has many advantages for children. Our first exchange was motivated by the savings that such a formula represented. We were drawn to the Scandinavian countries and traveling in 4, they were off budget. But from the first contacts with our “exchange partners”, we realized that the gains would not only be financial but that we would bring real educational values to our children.
During these exchanges (Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy, USA, Faroe Islands but also France) our children opened up to other cultures, to other peoples. My son was a shy child, who did not dare easily come into contact with others. During our exchange in Norway, he befriended a little neighbor, without speaking a single word in common. He is open and enjoys making contact with the locals. Every year now, as soon as we arrive, he looks for young people from the surrounding area.
Thanks to this formula, we are not only tourists, but “natives” of passages, if I may say so. The children learned to live like Icelanders, Norwegians ... and these experiences are real riches, and real openings to the world. They learn not to judge or fear cultures they don't know, and over the course of the discussions they have even become curious about living their experiences to the full.
My daughter is not simple in terms of food, but abroad she is ready to experiment. She nevertheless tasted the Icelandic specialty of her own accord: a pheasant shark for several months in the ground… !!
Obviously, there is a linguistic advantage. In France, we have a real delay in the practice of foreign languages, in particular English. Home exchanges make us independent; we are not part of a group, we are not on a tour. We are autonomous and therefore children are often confronted with the need to speak in English. Learning a foreign language as a means of communication with others becomes concrete and really takes on its meaning.
My children have also learned to share their bedroom space with an individual they do not know, to lend their toys. At the beginning, it was not obvious, it was necessary to discuss it. Before each exchange, my children put the toys they don't want to lend in a box. Over the years the volume of the cash register decreases. Children quickly appreciated finding rooms full of toys and games when they arrived.
We like to go with family, but we also like that everyone has their space and the exchange of house, unlike a hotel, allows to exchange by choosing accommodation with enough rooms so that children and parents have their privacy. Very appreciable!
We try to plan our exchanges several months in advance, in order to be able to communicate with our foreign partners. I remember a few skype exchanges during which the children get to know each other and introduce each other to their respective games, their pets. These moments make the exchange more concrete. When the moment arrives, it is not a stranger who invades their room, but a little girl whom we know a little. One of the fondest memories was meeting our Norwegians. We had welcomed them the day before our departure and had spent an evening together. I am always amazed with what spontaneity and simplicity children communicate and play together in record time. At the end of this evening, my daughter was no longer at all afraid to allow access to her space.
During the exchanges, we also teach our children to respect the materials of the people with whom we live. They should behave the way they want the other family to behave.
Finally, this formula helps children become aware of the differences in standard of living and takes them a little out of their cocoon of privileged little French.
In short, for all these reasons, for all these beautiful memories that we have in mind, we are ready for a new decade of exchanges.